Homo Erectus - Discovery and Representative Fossils

Discovery and Representative Fossils

The Dutch anatomist Eugène Dubois, who was fascinated especially by Darwin's theory of evolution as applied to man, set out to Asia (the place accepted then, despite Darwin, as the cradle of human evolution), to find a human ancestor in 1886. In 1891, his team discovered a human fossil on the island of Java, Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia); he described the species as Pithecanthropus erectus (from the Greek πίθηκος, "ape", and ἄνθρωπος, "man"), based on a calotte (skullcap) and a femur like that of H. sapiens found from the bank of the Solo River at Trinil, in East Java. (This species is now regarded as H. erectus).

The find became known as Java Man. Thanks to Canadian anatomist Davidson Black's (1921) initial description of a lower molar, which was dubbed Sinanthropus pekinensis, however, most of the early and spectacular discoveries of this taxon took place at Zhoukoudian in China. German anatomist Franz Weidenreich provided much of the detailed description of this material in several monographs published in the journal Palaeontologica Sinica (Series D).

Nearly all of the original specimens were lost during World War II; however, authentic Weidenreichian casts do exist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing, and are considered to be reliable evidence.

Throughout much of the 20th century, anthropologists debated the role of H. erectus in human evolution. Early in the century, however, due to discoveries on Java and at Zhoukoudian, it was believed that modern humans first evolved in Asia. A few naturalists (Charles Darwin most prominent among them) predicted that humans' earliest ancestors were African: he pointed out that chimpanzees and gorillas, who are human relatives, live only in Africa.

From the 1950s to 1970s, however, numerous fossil finds from East Africa yielded evidence that the oldest hominins originated there. It is now believed that H. erectus is a descendant of earlier genera such as Ardipithecus and Australopithecus, or early Homo-species such as H. habilis or H. ergaster. H. habilis and H. erectus coexisted for several thousand years, and may represent separate lineages of a common ancestor.

Archaeologist John T. Robinson and Robert Broom named Telanthropus capensis in the 1950s, now thought to belong to Homo erectus. Robinson discovered a jaw fragment, SK 45, in September 1949 in Swartkrans, South Africa. In 1957, Simonetta proposed to re-designate it Homo erectus, and Robinson (1961) agreed.

The skull of Tchadanthropus uxoris, discovered in 1961 by Yves Coppens in Chad, is the earliest fossil human discovered in the North of Africa. This fossil "had been so eroded by wind-blown sand that it mimicked the appearance of an australopith, a primitive type of hominid". Though some first considered it to be a specimen of H. habilis, it is no longer considered to be a valid taxon, and scholars rather consider it to represent H. erectus.

Read more about this topic:  Homo Erectus

Other articles related to "discovery and representative fossils, fossil, fossils":

Discovery and Representative Fossils - Homo Erectus Georgicus
... is the subspecies name sometimes used to describe fossil skulls and jaws found in Dmanisi, Georgia ... The fossils are about 1.8 million years old ... This classification was not upheld, and the fossil is now considered a divergent subgroup of Homo erectus, sometimes called Homo erectus georgicus ...

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